General Info & Policies
Itineraries for our tours are available for you to download in PDF format from our website, or you may request a printed copy from our office. We reserve the right to change–after an itinerary has been finalized–schedules, site sequence, or guides for emergency, logistical, or other reasons, so long as these alterations are in keeping with the nature of the tour.
To register for tours, we require that you complete our Registration/Release and Indemnity Agreement form and return it with a 10% (approximately) deposit for each tour (the actual deposit is indicated on the itinerary). If registering by phone, a deposit must be received within 14 days, or the space will be released. Unless indicated otherwise, full payment of the tour fee is due 120 days prior to departure. We will bill you for the final payment at either 120 days or when the tour reaches sufficient subscription to operate, whichever is later. (See the Foreign Currency Payments section below if you live outside the US.) In some cases the itinerary for a tour will not be available when you request it. We will hold space for you provisionally on such a tour, with no deposit required at that time, until the itinerary has been mailed. When we mail the itinerary to you, we will send along a reminder that the deposit is due within two weeks. If the deposit is not received, your space will automatically be released. NOTE: If a tour for which the itinerary is not yet ready becomes provisionally full and we have additional clients waitlisted for the tour, you will receive an email notification from us asking you to reconfirm your booking to continue holding your space.
We believe that small groups make for high-quality birding tours. We design the tour with the group size in mind as we feel it enhances the quality of the experience for the participant. Our domestic tours will have either a limit of 7 participants and one guide and vehicle, or 14 participants and two guides and vehicles. As we typically travel in 12- or 15-passenger vans, this will ensure no more than 2 passengers to a seat (more room for backpacks!) and that everyone will have a window. Our limits are firm, and we don’t exceed the limit by one to accommodate a couple when only one space remains open. However, on occasion, we will send along a guide in training on a tour. In these cases one seat in the van or bus will be taken by the guide in training. Our guides will have a rotation system within the venicle so that clients share the inconvenience equally. We hope this minor inconvenience will be more than offset by the advantages of having another guide along. When two guides are listed for a tour, the second guide will accompany the group if the tour is sufficiently subscribed. Tour limits are indicated on each tour’s page on our website, in a tour’s description in our catalog, and in the itinerary.
Accommodations & Transportation
Whenever possible, tour accommodations will be in comfortable, modern hotels. In some areas, however, the most interesting birding sites are far removed from such, and our accommodations may be simpler, varying from small country inns to tent camps. In these instances, accommodations will be described in the itinerary and information bulletin. Transportation during tours is generally in vans or small buses.
Our guides each carry a telescope for the group’s use, but you are encouraged to bring along your own. Personal binoculars are critical to enjoying the aesthetic rewards of birding and are useful, of course, for other natural history pursuits as well.
Our guides also carry recording equipment on almost all our tours, skillfully and carefully using playback to attract hard-to-see birds as appropriate to the situation. Over more than thirty-five years we have built an extensive in-house collection of bird sounds from around the world, and these are invaluable in seeing skulkers from antpittas to jewel-babblers, as well as some nightbirds.
Tour Information Packets
Upon receipt of the tour deposit, participants are sent a recommended reference list and an annotated trip list of the birds seen on a previous year’s tour to assist in preparing for the tour. For foreign tours you will receive the most recent recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and US State Department Consular sheets. Bird lists from several past tours as well as the tour checklist are available upon request after your deposit has been received (keep in mind the checklist may be updated closer to the tour departure to more accurately reflect taxonomic changes). About 90 days prior to tour departure, participants will receive an up-to-date field checklist of birds, a map of the tour area, luggage tags, and a detailed information bulletin describing climate, clothing recommendations, required documents, health considerations, and other pertinent details. About 30 days prior to departure, a list of tour accommodations and addresses, airline tickets, and a tour participant list will be sent. A trip list summarizing birds seen by the group is sent to participants after each tour. Our office is eager to help you in any way; we want your tour to be the best possible.
Most of our clients prefer a smoke-free environment. If you smoke, please be sensitive to the group and refrain from smoking at meals and in proximity to the group on trails and elsewhere. Smoking in vehicles is prohibited.
Tour fees and what they include are listed in the itinerary for each tour. Fees are based upon double occupancy and are always quoted in US Dollars. (See the Foreign Currency Payments section below if you live outside the US.) Single rooms will be provided upon request where available, in which case a single-supplement fee will be charged. For participants traveling alone but wishing to share a room, we will try to arrange for a roommate. If a roommate is not available, the single supplement will be charged. The single supplement is calculated by taking the actual cost of a single room and subtracting the one-half of the cost of a double room (plus any applicable taxes) that is priced into the tour. Unless indicated otherwise on a tour’s itinerary, the tour fee includes: all lodging and meals as listed in the itinerary, refreshments from the ice chest while in the field (on most tours), all transportation during the tour, entrance fees for parks and other areas, baggage handling, tips (see more below), and the guide services of the tour guide(s). Unless indicated otherwise, our tour fees do not include: transportation to and from tour departure points, passport and visa fees, airport taxes, alcoholic beverages, phone calls, laundry, or other items of a personal nature. Internal flights are sometimes included in the tour fee, depending upon the fare structure. Please check the itinerary.
Tipping at group meals and for drivers, porters, and local guides is included in your tour fee and will be handled for the group by your Field Guides leader(s). However, if you would like to recognize your Field Guides leader(s) or any local guide(s) for exceptional service, it is entirely appropriate to tip. We emphasize that such tips as a reflection of your appreciation are optional and not expected.
FIELD GUIDES FREQUENT TRAVELER PROGRAM
We appreciate your repeat business and wish to reward you for choosing Field Guides for your birding holiday. Everyone who takes four trips with us will receive a 5 percent discount on the fifth (tenth, fifteenth, etc.) trip. Any published tour (partial trips and extensions excluded) or sanctioned private group tour, regardless of length, counts toward the discount. This offer is non-transferable and is retroactive to include anyone who has traveled with Field Guides since its inception. (This offer does not apply to anyone already participating in our Lifetime Repeater’s Discount program.)
Visit our PAYMENT OPTIONS page for a full description of how to pay for your tour.
Field Guides is a full service travel agency and your tour manager will be happy to assist you with flights to join your tour (even if your travel originates outside the US). Field Guides does not charge a service fee for these services to clients booking a tour. However, we understand that tech-savvy clients often prefer to shop online or that you may wish to use mileage to purchase tickets. Regardless of which method you choose, your tour manager will be happy to provide assistance regarding ticket prices and schedules, along with rental cars and extra hotel nights as needed. Additionally, Field Guides provides our clients with 24-hour emergency assistance en route to and from tours. If you run into a problem in transit, we think you will find it helpful and comforting to be able to speak directly with the tour manager on call. Please be sure to check with your tour manager prior to purchasing your ticket to make sure the flights you have chosen will work well with the tour itinerary and that the tour is sufficiently subscribed to operate. Once purchased, most airline tickets are non-refundable and carry a penalty to change. Field Guides cannot be responsible for these fees. Also, it is imperative that we receive a copy of your comprehensive flight itinerary–including any and all flights not covered in the tour fee–so that we may track you in the event of missed connections, delays, or other mishaps. Good service is our strength, and we encourage you to compare the value of our tours and staff support with that of any other birding tour company.
FOR 2020 TOURS: Refund of deposit and payment, less $100 handling fee, will be made if cancellation is received up to 120 days before departure. If cancellation occurs between 119 and 70 days before the departure date, 50% of the tour fee is refundable. Thereafter, all deposits and payments are not refundable and non- transferable. FOR 2021 TOURS & BEYOND: Note that beginning in 2021, the 50% refund period will become 179 to 90 days before departure, with no refund thereafter.
Our cancellation policy only applies to payments made to Field Guides for tour (and any services included in those fees). Airline tickets not included in the tour fee and purchased separately often carry penalties for cancellation or change, or are sometimes totally nonrefundable. Additionally, if you take out trip insurance the cost of the insurance is not refundable so it is best to purchase the policy just prior to making full payment for the tour or at the time you purchase airline tickets, depending upon the airlines restrictions. The right is reserved to cancel any tour prior to departure, in which case full refund will constitute full settlement to the passenger. The right is reserved to substitute another guide for the original one. Where this is necessary, notification will be given to tour members, and they will have the right to cancel their participation and receive a full refund. Please note that, as with airline tickets, tour bookings are not transferable by you to another party should you have to cancel.
Trip Cancellation & Medical Emergency Insurance
We strongly recommend you consider purchasing trip cancellation (including medical emergency) insurance to cover your investment in case of injury or illness to you or your family prior to or during a trip. Because we must remit early (and substantial) tour deposits to our suppliers, we cannot offer any refund when cancellation occurs within 70 days of departure, and only a partial refund from 70 to 119 days prior to departure (see CANCELLATION POLICY). In addition, the Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. US medical insurance plans seldom cover health costs incurred outside the United States unless supplemental coverage is purchased. Furthermore, US Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. When making a decision regarding health insurance, Americans should consider that many foreign doctors and hospitals require payment in cash prior to providing service and that a medical evacuation to the United States may cost well in excess of $50,000. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas often face extreme difficulties. When consulting with your insurer prior to your trip, please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas healthcare provider or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. US and Canadian citizens will receive from us a brochure regarding optional tour cancellation/emergency medical insurance. Our agent, CSA, will insure for trip cancellation and interruption, medical coverage, travel delay, baggage loss and delay, 24- hour accident protection, and emergency medical transportation. If you purchase the insurance when making final payment for the tour, pre-existing conditions are covered. As the trip insurance is non-refundable once purchased, it is important to reconfirm with our office that the trip is sufficiently subscribed to operate prior to purchasing the insurance. Typically the best time to buy your insurance is when you receive your bill for the final payment (which is only sent after the tour is sufficiently subscribed to operate). The CSA brochure includes an order form; you may also purchase your CSA policy on-line by visiting this page on our website and clicking the link to CSA. Please note, once the insurance is purchased it is non-refundable, so please check with your tour manager prior to making the purchase to assure the tour will operate as scheduled. Citizens of other countries are urged to consult their insurance broker.
For and in consideration of the opportunity to participate in the tour, each tour participant and each parent or legal guardian of a tour participant who is under 18 agrees to release, indemnify, and hold harmless Field Guides Incorporated, its agents, servants, employees, shareholders, officers, directors, attorneys, and contractors as more fully set forth in the Release and Indemnity Agreement on the reverse side of the registration form. Field Guides Incorporated acts only as an agent for the passenger in regard to travel, whether by railroad, motorcar, motorcoach, boat, airplane, or other means, and assumes no liability for injury, damage, loss, accident, delay, or irregularity caused by defect in such vehicles or for any reason whatsoever, including the acts, defaults, or bankruptcies of any company or person engaged in conveying the passenger or in carrying out the arrangements of the tour. Field Guides Incorporated accepts no responsibility for losses or additional expenses due to delay or changes in air or other services, sickness, weather, strike, war, quarantine, or other causes. The tour participant shall bear all such losses and expenses. Field Guides Incorporated reserves the right to substitute hotels of similar category for those indicated and to make any changes in the itinerary where deemed necessary or caused by changes in air schedules. Field Guides Incorporated reserves the right to decline to accept or to retain any person as a member of any tour. Baggage is at owner’s risk entirely. Participants should be in good health and should consult a physician before undertaking a tour. If you have questions about the physical requirements of a tour, please contact our office for further information. Participants should prepare for the tour by reading the itinerary, the information bulletin, and other pertinent matter provided by Field Guides. Each participant is responsible for bringing appropriate clothing and equipment as recommended in our bulletins. The receipt of your tour deposit shall be deemed to be consent to the above conditions. Each tour participant and each parent or legal guardian of a tour participant who is under 18 shall sign and deliver the release and indemnity agreement at the time of registration.